We all know the cup half-empty or cup half-full theory, which tells us that our perspective and perception of the world depends on whether we choose to be optimistic or pessimistic. I certainly have found this to be true – because I know I am happier when I choose to find the silver lining in situations that seem less than desirable. 

But there’s another full-cup theory I want to talk to you about, maybe one you haven’t heard before. 

Spilling Over Into Everything

When I was at the height of my law career, with a successful partnership and practice, and plenty to show for what I had accomplished, my cup was full to the very top. Not in the way you’re thinking though – because I was unhappy, not living in alignment with my purpose. I was overworking myself to the point of exhaustion and burnout, and it only took a small amount of anything “extra” to overflow my cup. Something would spill, in real life, and I would instantly become angry, teeth clenched, I might even let a curse or two slip. Or maybe a last minute plan change would be the thing that set me over the proverbial edge. It didn’t have to be a big deal, it didn’t take much to overflow my cup. 

A Different Kind of Full Cup

Fast-forward to this present moment I am sharing with you right now, if I stop and place my hand over my heart, it doesn’t take much for my cup to overflow. This time around though it’s the warmth of love and happiness rather than the heat of anger and frustration. And one is clearly (so much) better than the other. 

Burnout, exhaustion, frustration, even anger – according to Internal Medicine Physician Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith – happens because we don’t rest and reset. So many of us get up every single day with that cup brimming, and we don’t even realize it until our puppy has an accident and it’s like the Incredible Hulk has been living inside us, waiting in the shadows for something to go wrong. 

Think About This

In real-life, if we see something overflowing or about to overflow, we take precautions so that doesn’t happen. And it’s important to do the same thing for our own cups. I ended up in the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. So many times before that my cup was overflowing, spilling out into every area of my life. If I had taken time to rest, time to evaluate and reset, time to make sure my cup was full of delicious Italian espresso instead of curdled milk, I wouldn’t have ended up in the hospital, and I can only see that now because I do take time to rest, reset and reflect. When I had to tell my wife that she might end up a widow if I kept on like I was, it opened my eyes. I could see that my cup was full of all the wrong things and it wasn’t going to take much for it to overflow – at any given time. 

Is This You?

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “If I could just have this whole weekend to sleep”, or wondering why your vacation just isn’t enough to curb your exhaustion, your cup might be overflowing with the wrong things. And I’m not just talking about physical rest here either.

Consider this – we all have many things on our plates at different times. And sometimes we handle it better than other times. Why is that? I believe it is because we are depleted in some way, either mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. So, if your brain is foggy, you’re tired no matter how much you sleep, you lack energy and motivation, it might be time to rest, reflect and reset. 

This is reinforced by the research of Dr. Dalton-Smith. She points out there are actually seven types of rest we need in our lives. Curious what they are? I was too… 

  • Physical rest can be passive, like sleeping or napping, but can also be activities that restore circulation like yoga, walks, and stretching. 
  • Mental rest means learning how to make your brain behave instead of letting it run wild anytime of day or night. 
  • Spiritual rest means taking a look at your “bigger picture” and figuring out what makes you feel grounded and connected to your life. 
  • Emotional rest means you have freedom to be authentic and truthful about where you are in life, what’s going on, what your cup is full of and if it’s overflowing, or about to. 
  • Social rest is the rest we experience around people who are positive influences and energy sources in our lives. Most of us spend the majority of our time around people who are negatively pulling from our energy. We need friends, family, support, and we need them to be lifting us up and filling our cup with the good stuff. 
  • Sensory rest means we take time to downshift all of the sensory input in our lives, with our screens and gadgets, and interrupt the overload we all experience. We touch our phones over 150 times per day, causing what is called constant cognitive arousal.
  • Creative rest is the rest we experience when we allow ourselves to experience the beauty of nature, art, music, symphony, theatre or all of those things where you have the awe and wonder awakened inside of you.  

I will never forget losing my mind and yelling at my daughter for something she didn’t even know she did wrong. These are the moments life is trying to force us to pause, to let us know that our cup is too full. And it’s up to us to pause and to rest, even when that feels like the hardest thing to do. 

Now I wouldn’t be the Resilience Guy if I didn’t point out the resilience link here. Rest is an essential component for building and maintaining our resilience. As I say in my resilience keynotes, “Resilience is not how you endure but how you recover”. 

If you relate to this, if you’re tired, if you need to reset, you can listen to my conversation with Dr. Sandra here.